FOREIGN Ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) strongly urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to stop its nuclear program and comply immediately and fully with its obligations under relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions.
In a statement released several hours after the formal opening of the 50th Asean Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Manila on Saturday, foreign ministers reiterated their grave concerns over the escalation of tension in the Korean peninsula caused in part by Pyongyang’s recent missile tests.
Top diplomats from the 10-member bloc particularly cited the recent testing by North Korea of intercontinental ballistic missiles in July and ballistic missile launches and two nuclear tests in 2016.
“These developments seriously threaten peace, security and stability in the region and the world. In this regard, we strongly urge the DPRK (North Korea) to immediately comply fully with its obligations under all relevant UN Security Council Resolutions,” the foreign ministers said in a statement issued ahead of the arrival of Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho of North Korea.
They also expressed support for the “complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner.
At the same time, the regional bloc said it was ready to play a constructive role in contributing peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula.
As a participant of the Asean Regional Forum (ARF), Pyongyang was urged to positively contribute to realizing the forum’s vision of maintaining the Asia-Pacific as a region of “lasting peace, stability, friendship and prosperity.”
As chairman of the Asean, the Philippines will be hosting the 24th ARF meeting on Monday to be participated in by 27 nations, including Japan, South Korea and the United States.
ARF is an annual meeting in which Asean members and other countries discuss regional security issues and come up with measures to enhance peace and security in the region.
Open to meeting
South Korea’s new foreign minister said Saturday she was open to rare discussions with her North Korean counterpart Ri Hong-Yo at the sidelines of the ARF in the Philippines.
“If there is an opportunity that naturally occurs, we should talk,” Kang Kyung-Wha told reporters as she landed in Manila on Saturday, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.
The potential meetings come as the North faces intense international pressure to curtail its nuclear weapons program.
The United Nations Security Council will vote this weekend on a US-drafted resolution to toughen sanctions against North Korea following its second intercontinental ballistic missile test on July 28.
The United States said it would also seek to build unified pressure on the North at the Manila event, which US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is attending.
But the newly elected South Korean government of President Moon Jae-In is also much more open to negotiations than the previous administration run by Park Geun-Hye.
Kang, South Korea’s first female foreign minister, said any meeting with Ri would be an opportunity “to deliver our desire for the North to stop its provocations and positively respond to our recent special offers (for talks) aimed at establishing a peace regime”.
In July Seoul proposed military talks with Pyongyang but the North refused to respond. Had they gone ahead, they would have been the first official inter-Korean talks since 2015.
Tensions on the Korean peninsula often dominate the ARF because it is one of the few annual diplomatic gatherings attended by the key stakeholders: South Korea, North Korea, the United States, Russia, China and Japan.
In the run up to this year’s summit, Washington had lobbied to have Pyongyang kicked out of the ARF but there is limited appetite among Asian countries to shut North Korea out of one of the few diplomatic gatherings it attends.
Washington is determined to ratchet up pressure on the North after a series of missile tests that Pyongyang has declared puts American cities within their reach.